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The Strange Tale of How Knee Pain SURGED In 1955 And Why Obesity May Have Nothing To Do With It!

February 7, 2018 by Steve Coleman
knee-osteoahritis-and-stem-cell-therapy.jpeg

In the Mid-1950s something odd happened in the United States, that may force us to re-examine the links between aging, obesity and knee osteoarthritis - a condition that influences the quality of millions of Americans.

What is this peculiar event, you may ask?

Seven medical researchers have uncovered supporting evidence to show that prior to 1955, arthritic knees were rare - very rare. Suddenly, around this point in history, the disease began to double in prevalence.

Before going further consider for a moment that osteoarthritis will probably affect half our country during our lifetime, which is why we are approaching (and will soon exceed) 1 million knee replacement surgeries in the next 12 months. The research team’s findings  is thus critically important because presently the conventional wisdom suggests that living longer and higher obesity levels stimulate (and aggravate) the onset of osteoarthritis. They instead suggest there are several unconsidered variables that's leading to the growth of degenerative joint disease in the knee.


Even more fascinating is the conclusion that knee osteoarthritis may be more preventable than is commonly assumed.  They surmise that prevention will require research on additional independent risk factors that either arose or have become amplified in the postindustrial era. The researchers based their findings on autopsies of cadaver-derived skeletons of people aged aged below and above 50 whose BMI at death was documented .  These persons lived in the period spanning from the early industrial era (1800s to early 1900s) and the modern post industrial era (late 1900s to early 2000s).

National Academy of Sciences - Knee Osteoarthritis

 National Academy of Sciences 

Ian J. WallaceSteven WorthingtonDavid T. FelsonRobert D. JurmainKimberly T. WrenHeli MaijanenRobert J. Woods and Daniel E. Lieberman

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Whether increases in longevity and BMI (weight) are responsible for current knee OA levels has never been tested, but this assumption has led many to view the disease’s high prevalence as effectively unpreventable, since aging is untreatable, and the high BMI epidemic is intractable,” said the researchers in a paper delivered to the National Academy of Sciences.

They conclude that recent environmental changes have played a principal role in the deterioration of our knees, not just the extra baggage you carry around your waist.   

Specifically, they point to human beings loading more external weight on their bodies during daily activities; NOT weight gain (or high BMI) over time as a main contributor to knee arthritis.

There is an important inflection point, however, in their findings above.   


It’s not just that we are loading more weight (than our ancestors) on our poor bodies, but that we are also doing this while being generally more physically inactive during the course of any calendar year.

“Less physically active individuals who load their joints less develop thinner cartilage with lower proteoglycan content as well as weaker muscles responsible for protecting joints by stabilizing them and limiting joint reaction forces,” said the researchers.

Growth of Knee Osteoarthritis Since 1950 in America

This is an extremely intriguing conclusion because it again points to how vital it has become for your Doctor to examine your body and lifestyle in totality, not just symptomatically.

Dr. Steve Coleman, D.O

If you are currently experiencing knee pain from a previous injury or sports-related trauma we may be able to help.
Please schedule a Comprehensive Medical Assessment (CMA) to determine if you qualify for promising new treatments
in Stem Cell Therapy, Prolotherapy and PRP.

We can infer from their research that chronic low-grade inflammation, exacerbated by physical inactivity, is further stimulated by modern diets rich in highly refined carbohydrates. It does not end there: Excessive adiposity (i.e. being severely overweight) can further magnify and accelerate loading-induced damage to joint tissues and may also directly affect knee OA pathogenesis.


It’s important to emphasize that this research is ongoing but the results thus far MUST be taken into account when a patient comes in for a Comprehensive Medical Assessment or 100 Point Health Score at our Bonita Springs Regenerative clinic which offers stem cell therapy as a possible treatment modality.  

Your entire personal history and lifestyle are key indicators of your present condition and what treatment options should be made available to you.  An effective prevention strategy will involve adjusting  your physical activity patterns and diets to approximate more closely the lifestyle conditions under which our species has evolved.

What we also take away from this study is that fairly recent increases in knee osteoarthritis during the last several decades cannot simply be considered an inevitable consequence of people living longer or having higher BMI.

The Wonders of the Knee Joint


“Susceptibility to knee OA and other mismatch diseases is undoubtedly influenced by intrinsic factors, including age, sex, and genes, but the historical and evolutionary perspective afforded by our data underscores that many modern cases of knee OA may be preventable,” said the researchers.


Your present job or occupation may also be playing a role in the degeneration of your knee joints.  Sitting in front of computers for long periods with no intermittent physical activity seems to suggest another contributing piece to the arthritic puzzle.

High Heels and Knee Osteoarthritis in Women

Things get even stranger when one considers gender-based causes for knee joint degradation.   One particular study suggests that osteoarthritis in women may be due to long (could we say, agonizing) periods wearing, walking and standing in high-heel shoes.

The study focused on 20 healthy women wearing high heel shoes and walking barefoot. The results showed a 23% increase in compressive force on the medial compartment of the knee and more pronounced pressure on the patellofemoral joint as a whole.  Thus, these “altered forces” may likely be having a degenerative effect on female (or whomever enjoys wearing high-heels generally) joints over time.


This new vein of research has been shared with you to illustrate just how subtle and intricate the human body behaves in the modern world.   Our present health system, and indeed our well being, can no longer be targeted with treatment plans that simply focus on limiting symptoms with the use of pharmacological agents.  
We also do not wish to suggest, based on the discussion above, that is now OK for you to keep or put on weight: This harmful condition will lead to a variety of other negative outcomes which may in turn influence the long-term health of the knee in unexpected ways.  Not to mention the havoc it plays on hormonal levels and the possible threat of diabetes!

It’s also worth considering the role walking on hard pavements plays in affecting the knee joint.   If you combine this activity with inactivity, we have further metrics to consider in the overall degeneration of the knee.

Further, simply pushing a patient to undergo knee or hip replacement surgery is also an unwise decision.  Evidence is mounting that we must find alternatives, especially if you consider recent recommendations from major bodies such as the Australian Rheumatology Association which said that arthroscopic knee surgery to treat osteoarthritis is of low value and doctors are being told to consider alternatives such as exercise therapy to avoid unnecessary harm to the patient.

These recommendations were supported by the country’s Consumer Health Forum.

This is a major reason why we continue to study new trends in joint stem cell therapy research and its application for qualified patients experiencing knee pain from osteoarthritis.  While stem cell therapy will not work for everyone, it shows remarkable promise for patients whose osteoarthritis is not yet bone on bone.   For those interested in FTC/FDA-compliant stem cell therapy, please read this recent patient success story for Marie Claire, who experienced a positive outcome after undergoing the short, same-day procedure which utilized her body’s own cells, including fat and bone marrow, to stimulate healing in the knee joint.

Our medical clinic continues to use the best tenets of osteopathic medicine to situate the patient within his present lifestyle, medical history and physiological condition.  As the earlier study pointed out, environmental factors play a key role in your present condition.   It also means that doctors, surgeons and specialists - including us - need to constantly re-examine our belief systems and the incoming science with regards why a patient is experiencing osteoarthritis AND how we should treat it.

Tackling Knee Osteoarthritis in  Bonita Springs

We hope found the article above informative, helping you to make more informed decisions regarding your health, especially if you are experiencing knee pain in Bonita Springs.  Feel free to reach out to us and ask any health questions on your mind.  We also offer treatment options for #osteoarthritis in the knee and hip joints.